About the Cover: Richard Misrach - Issue 18
ABOUT THE FUTURE
Andrea Blanch: I was asking about your cover shoot for our Humanity cover. How did it come about? Why did you decide to use the camera that you chose? Etc etc…
Richard Misrach: So I've been working on that series along the border from 2004 to 2015. And when I was working in Texas. I was driving along the Boca Chica highway which goes out from Brownsville, Texas to the Gulf of Mexico. And when I was driving out there, I spotted three border patrol trucks and a shooting range. Guys were practicing out there and I thought I would just kind of maybe drop in there and see if I could take some pictures. And when I tried to get close to it, it was electronically sealed off, with an electronic gate. And so I was disappointed and I decided to just to go on to the Gulf Coast and continue photographing. But in about three hours later I came back. And what I discovered is that the electronic gate was stuck open everybody was gone. But it stuck open, just large enough for a car to pass through. So I drove in I felt like I needed to work really quickly and instead of using my Hasselblad on a tripod, I used my iPhone and photographed all the targets close up and I photographed the shells on the ground. I worked super fast and I found the iPhone to be an incredible tool to work quickly. The quality was great and I’d able to make beautiful prints from that. And so it became a vital tool in the border project. So you know, I did use a conventional a large format camera on a tripod to make large prints. But when there were times when I needed to work fairly quickly, the iPhone has proved to be a really important tool.
AB: So how large can you blow up those prints?
RM: They go to about 18 by 22 inches and they look just flawless, just beautiful. The cover - it’s a smaller size obviously but it looks pretty good.
AB: It looks fabulous!.
RM: Yeah. So I mean. People are surprised but you know in the traveling museum show, I had a wall grid that was about 32 feet long that was comprised all of iPhone pictures that were printed about 24 x 30 inches. And at viewing distance, they look really good.
AB: That must be such a relief for you. From working with a large format camera.
RM: if you're in a situation - for example, the work I'm doing now. I'm working in abandoned buildings throughout the West where people write stuff on the walls, and a bunch of those places were like Nazi hangouts, like neo nazi hangouts. And in those buildings I go and I don't even bother taking my bigger camera. I go with my iPhone because I can get in and out really quickly. And if I'm uncomfortable I can move quickly and if I'm not I can then go get my big camera, go back, and take my time. But it’s been an incredible tool. It's something I never anticipated. I haven’t used a small format camera in 40 years; I started with a Leica in the 60s. So it’s really quite a remarkable tool. The quality is just excellent.
AB: Which iPhone do you use?
RM: Well the border pictures were done with an iPhone 5. I’m now on the 6 plus. And probably before too long. I'll get the next one. But in each iteration the quality just gets that much better, and I can print larger and larger. The new work that I'm doing, the prints are just beautiful.
AB: I cannot believe that was a 5.
RM:Yes I know I know.
AB: No really - I mean you have to get at least the 8 or the 10 now. It’s so much better!
RM: Oh i know - It's hard to keep up. But I’ve been so happy with what I’ve been doing recently, I didn’t want to change midstream. But I know it's a matter of weeks before I probably get the new one.
AB: Treat yourself to a christmas present!
RM: Thank you. And there's not much more to say about that except for the fact that we all do have phones that are taking better and better pictures. I mean, I've been photographing my wife's mother who's French She's ninety two I think 92 93. And I've been working on a book of her for about eight years. I'm eventually going to do a book of iPhone pictures I’ve taken, because the iPhone is so not a camera. It’s so much in everybody's lives, just like nothing, that people are not self-conscious. So you can actually take pictures of people. If I had to pull up a bigger camera, she would pose or do things. But with the iPhone, she just never even noticed. So it's kind of camouflaged in the world.
AB: Do you ever look at the iPhone tutorials online?
RM: No I haven't. Should I?
AB: Well yes - you might know this already but I’m telling you this because of what you just said. If you put your earphones in, you know the volume clicker on one side of the headphones? You can use it as a camera clicker. So nobody has to know that you’re taking a picture. Which I think is amazing if you do street photography.
RM: Yeah. No you're absolutely right. It's amazing. That’s a good tip!